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Sisters in Pain

Sisters in Pain: Battered Women Fight Back

L. Elisabeth Beattie
Mary Angela Shaughnessy
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Sisters in Pain
    Book Description:

    In 1995, Kentucky governor Brereton Jones granted parole to ten women who had been convicted of killing, conspiring to kill, or assaulting the men who had abused them for years. The media began referring to them as the "Sisters in Pain," a name they embraced. These are their stories.

    Linda Elisabeth Beattie and Mary Angela Shaughnessy's interviews of seven of the Sisters in Pain detail the physical, sexual, or psychological abuse they suffered at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends, battery beyond comprehension. Anyone who has ever asked, "Why don't they just leave?" will come to understand the interconnected strands of abuse that make just living through another day a personal triumph.

    Beattie and Shaughnessy address the pervasive nature of domestic violence in America and explore the legal ramifications of fighting back. Their interviews with the Sisters in Pain reveal the ways in which these women have picked up the pieces of their shattered lives and learned to face the future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5732-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Marsha Weinstein

    This book is invaluable in amplifying the voices of these survivors. Those whose stories so desperately need to be told appreciate the authors’ willingness to write this book, not only to commend their survival, but also to help others who have suffered from abuse. My hope is that by reading this book you will see the injustice in the current legal system so graphically described in the women’s stories and that your outrage over the lack of protection and enforcement of the law will prompt you to work with policy makers and organizations to hold the judicial system, law enforcement,...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    L. Elisabeth Beattie and Mary Angela Shaughnessy
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xix-xxx)

    Pick up almost any newspaper or magazine, flip through radio news reports or television feature specials, and sooner or later you’ll encounter the facts. One in four women in the United States is raped during her lifetime, and only one rape in eleven is reported. In 1997, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 4.5 million violent acts against women occurred, and 95 percent of the perpetrators were men (McCrea and Goldman 1998). The U.S. Justice Department’s most recent statistics suggest that 30 percent of the 1,414 women murdered in 1992 were killed by their husbands, ex-husbands, or boyfriends...

  7. The Quilting Circle at the Women’s Correctional Center in Pee Wee Valley, Kentucky
    (pp. 1-2)
  8. Politics, the Prison Quilt, and Parole
    (pp. 3-35)
  9. Sherry Pollard
    (pp. 37-60)

    Staunton, Illinois, a prairie village not far from the battered city of East St. Louis, where Sherry Pollard was born, stretches as flat and wide and absolute as most midwestern towns. In fact, its tidy streets laid out in grids must serve as models for scouts earning badges for compass mastery or for memorizing the basic concepts of Euclidean math, for parallel and perpendicular are precisely how Staunton’s avenues and sidewalks stretch north, south, east, and west before they intersect. Even the citizens of Staunton, the men, women, boys, and girls whose pursuits cause them to dash down the wide,...

  10. Laborare Est Orare
    (pp. 61-61)
  11. Karen Stout
    (pp. 63-82)

    We arrived in Sonora, Kentucky, at about 8:00 p.m. on August 2, 1996, long after what sidewalks there were had been swept clean and rolled up for the night. The town—a crossroads, really, just a couple of exits past Elizabethtown heading south from Louisville on I-65—appeared deserted. No kids, no cars, no stray animals, even, to populate the dusty streets. Karen’s clear, terse directions took us straight to an old apartment by a railroad track, a narrow house cut up and converted into dirt-cheap rentals the size of trustee prison cells.

    Jimmy, Karen’s youngest son, still a teenage...

  12. Not Listening, Hearing
    (pp. 83-83)
  13. Teresa Gulley Hilterbrand
    (pp. 85-98)

    On August 3, we headed out again, this time for Morehead, where we were to meet Teresa Gulley at the Holiday Inn. Teresa, who’d remarried since being charged with her crime, now goes by the surname Hilterbrand, and we’d rented a room with a conference table and chairs so that when Teresa’s second husband, Jimmy, arrived with his wife, we three could retain some privacy as Teresa recounted her life. But too much time elapsed as we waited in the motel lobby. The coffee shop closed; the hands of the clock above the registration desk kept crawling past, then way...

  14. Skull-Light
    (pp. 99-99)
  15. Sue Melton
    (pp. 101-118)

    It was Sunday, early November, and snowing. The air felt frostier than our typical upper South, midfall weather. We traveled south first on one highway then another for the six-and-a-half hours it took us to drive from Louisville to Albany, Kentucky, a tiny town smack in the center and on the edge of the Tennessee state line. The prospect of the interview we’d set out to conduct worried us some, as Sue Melton, we’d been told by Chandra McElroy and Marsha Weinstein, was not in good shape. As a matter of fact, she’d never have been paroled had her health...

  16. If I Could I Would
    (pp. 119-120)
  17. Margie Marcum
    (pp. 121-130)

    It’s a fact that the stories behind the stories that shape the lives of the Sisters in Pain could be traced straight back to Eve. But a saga that stands apart from the rest is the story of how Helen Bowen, a caseworker at the Big Sandy Family Abuse Center in Floyd County, Kentucky, took up Margie Marcum’s cause and acted as the advocate for the Sister in Pain subjugated, almost, beyond speech. Helen’s fight to reclaim Margie’s life is a tale that we first heard upon attempting to contact Margie. “Oh, no. Call Helen; Margie won’t say much to...

  18. The Key
    (pp. 131-131)
  19. Tracie English
    (pp. 133-152)

    If the collective story of the Sisters in Pain were cast for the silver screen, Tracie English, the youngest of the lot, would be played by the likes of Kate Winslet, or, fifty years ago, by the same ingenuous Judy Garland that starred inMeet Me in St. Louis.For Tracie has proved the media’s darling not only for her youth but also for the fact that, instead of actually or allegedly killing or conspiring to kill a boyfriend or a spouse, she shot her father, a man who, she says, battered her for years; a man who, right in...

  20. Gravity
    (pp. 153-156)
  21. Montilla Seewright
    (pp. 157-174)

    It was a muggy May morning in 1998 before we finally met Montilla Seewright. We had talked with her half a dozen times or more the year before to schedule, confirm, then reschedule interview dates, but as each appointment arose some catastrophe had caused her to cancel or simply to not show. The fact that Montilla couldn’t claim more than transient addresses, and so not even a phone of her own, hadn’t helped, and she swore that at least one public housing official hadn’t wanted us to interview her and had failed to return our phone messages or to deliver...

  22. Deadline
    (pp. 175-176)
  23. Epilogue
    (pp. 177-182)

    Since their appearance on theDonahue Show,the Sisters in Pain have had few opportunities to hear about, much less to meet with, one another. On April 4, 1997, Tracie English, Sue Melton, Sherry Pollard, Paula Richey, and Karen Stout (Stelzer), with permission from their parole officers, reunited for dinner at Masterson’s, a Louisville restaurant, before attending at the University of Louisville the concert premiere of an original musical composition written, sung, and played in their honor. In an attempt to heighten public awareness and understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence, several Louisvillearea social service agencies, in conjunction with...

  24. Appendix A: Issues Related to Research, Reform, and the Law
    (pp. 183-192)
  25. Appendix B: “Warning Signs for Women: Predictors of Violence in Men” and “Why She Stays, When She Leaves”
    (pp. 193-196)
  26. Appendix C: Private Artifact to Public Act: “The Quilt as Accusatory Text” and “The Nineteenth-Century Diarist and Her Quilts”
    (pp. 197-202)
  27. Appendix D: National Domestic Violence Organizations and Kentucky Spouse Abuse Centers
    (pp. 203-212)
  28. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-216)